London, and close to the whole of the UK, has been covered in mist for the past few days. We travelled by train to Kent, south east of London, for a short stay with friends and it felt like our train was launching us deep into the world of Dickens.
The view that greeted us out of our train window was a world of swirling white, punctuated with the odd black stick of a tree peering out of the mist. I was waiting for Magwitch to jump out from behind a gravestone and snarl something at us through rotten teeth.
Thankfully the train knew its destination and we got safely to Tonbridge where we had a lovely time with some friends, and yesterday went for a long, muddy walk through Knole Park.
Knole Park is one of the few deer-parks in England to have survived the past 500 years (there were 700 in the 16th century) and the only one in Kent. The park was first enclosed by a fence in 1456 by Thomas Bourchier to indulge a passion for hunting, which was popular among the nobility of the time.
In some ways the Tudor deer-park marked a transition between the medieval game forest and the more ornamental parks of the 17th and 18th centuries. Elements of the medieval landscape survive in the hawthorn, oak, yew, hornbeam, silver birch, bird maple and ash trees that once dominated the woodlands of the Weald. And it is these that contribute to the timelessness of the park: to the fact that it has changed little since Thomas Sackville’s death in 1608.
This is what we saw:
Travelling back into London, we clashed headlong into severe delays on our underground line. When we left London on Wednesday, we had the same experience as we ended up being squashed like sardines against fellow tube travellers. Yesterday, we stood and waited 20 minutes for the eight promised minutes to pass until the arrival of our tube. Tempers were clearly fraying …
The tube arrived and we began what resembled a process of squeezing toothpaste back into the tube. Commuters shoved and pushed their way on to the tube. We two included. The tube doors closed and we heard a commotion near the doors. Turned out a young chap had stood himself against the “leaning cushion” next to the door. Inevitably, every single commuter had pushed past him to get into the tube. The last person to do so bore the brunt of this young chap’s anger. We heard some yelling, and then a final,
“I don’t care if you don’t speak English, don’t push me. I’ve got an injured arm, so don’t push me.”
Thank goodness the young Frenchman, on the receiving end of the anger, was not travelling alone. After a slight pause:
“I can speak English,” his friend said.
“Good. Tell your friend not to push.”
“How could he not push you?”
And so ensued a pointless argument that clearly went nowhere except into escalated anger, raised eyebrows around the tube and a whole lot of sighing.
The best way to end the argument, according to the aggrieved young injured person, was to grab the best weapon from his arsenal of common sense.
His continental adversary retorted, in his wonderfully accented annoyance, “You shut up too!”
“WHAT did you just say?”
And, in future, young man, my advice would be to steer clear of arguing in this manner. You won’t win.
“I said. The same. As you.”
Touché, dear friend, touché.
Tension filled the air. The tube travellers nearly applauded when aggrieved young commuter alighted at what may, or may not, have been his chosen destination. We travelled in cleared air for a few refreshing minutes before arriving at our stop and emerging, once again, into London mist.
Happy New Year one and all.
Sunshine signing off for today and for 2010! See you in the New Year.